Billy Beane was up front about the A's 2005 team, saying the team would be talented and competitive, but acknowledging that "everything probably had to break right" for the A's to win the West. In a way, he was mistaken, because ultimately everything had to break wrong--or at least everything had to break--for the A's not to win the West in 2005.
2006 looks to be a 180 degree shift from 2005. Now it looks like everything has to break wrong for the A's not to win the West...but the team looks like it could get a lot of breaks this year, and not in a good way. The 2006 team has major injury questions going in, which the 2005 team, ironically, really didn't in comparison. The big question Mark was Ellis, and he was fine straight through from spring training to winter packing. Kotsay's back was no surprise, but key injuries to Crosby, Harden Durazo, and Dan Meyer were not anticipated, and problems for Chavez and Dotel were also not known about--at least publicly.
In contrast, the 2006 team goes in with "Gee I don't know"s hanging over Chavez' right shoulder, Harden's left shoulder and the body it connects to, Frank Thomas' "twice cooked pork" of a heel, plus Bradley's knee and the temperament it connects to, along with Kotsay's back and, of course, Crosby's karma.
So one year, health looks pretty good but expectations are moderate, and the A's fail due to a lack of health. The next year, expectations are high but the team on paper looks like it could be shredded, so...what to expect? I don't think a team with Perez at 3B, Scutaro at SS, Payton in CF, Kielty at DH, and Saarloos Glynning for Harden would win anywhere near 100 games, but I think a healthy A's team is as good a bet as any to win the division or short series in front of them. So as pitchers and catchers report today, so does the Team MVP if the A's win the World Series. His name is Larry Davis and here's hoping he has a "career year" in 2006.